Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Once In A Blue Moon

Delayed Premier League Review by Travis Lankford. He'll have a more timely Euro 2012 piece coming up before it starts.

The Barclays Premier League proved to be another one for the books. That book will either be burned or enshrined depending on what side of Manchester the librarian calls home. There were many surprises, failed experiments, let-downs, disasters, and heroics. The title race was just as compelling as the fight for fourth and the always gripping relegation battle. The Premier League even went into its final day fixtures with everything on the line. While many will say that the cup competitions are where true, gripping football occurs; the Premier League gave us all an extremely gripping final day and there was indeed drama throughout the year.

Manchester United came in as the reigning champions but big spending Manchester City was still looking for more silverware. Arsenal typically hadn’t done much in the way of solidifying their defense. Chelsea had sacked yet another manager and had decided to revolutionize their squad under Jose Mourinho protégé, Andre Villas-Boas. King Kenny was into a full-season as Liverpool manager and he had to produce the goods that he and Hodgson hadn’t the previous year. The newly promoted teams would be comprised of QPR, Norwich City, and the first Welsh side to play in the Premier League, Swansea City.

Manchester City won the League for the first time since 1968 by beating Manchester United on goal difference. Their come-from-behind win against QPR on the final day was a spectacle to behold.  Manchester United couldn’t close out the title race and were marred by rather conservative tactics towards the end of the season. Chelsea’s early form was soon followed by a disastrous middle of the season and the sacking of another manager, AVB, in March. This would be Chelsea’s first finish outside of the top four since Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Liverpool’s big spending, £165m worth, turned out to be a waste (outside of maybe Suarez). Arsene Wenger was able to steady the ship after a disastrous opening campaign; Alan Pardew led Newcastle to a shock finish of fifth after a great defensive display all year and the combined efforts of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

David Moyes – someone please give this man a transfer budget! – led Everton to finish higher in the table than Liverpool. This was easily the deciding factor in the sacking of Kenny Dalglish from his second managerial stint at LFC. Tottenham somehow hung onto a fourth place finish after stumbling and seemingly on the edge of collapse during the transfer saga involving their manager, Harry Redknapp, and the England managerial vacancy. Their jubilation upon achieving Champions League football would soon be dashed by Chelsea’s result in Munich.

The bottom of the table was just as compelling, if not more, this past season. All three newly promoted teams from the Championship were able to stay up this season (a financial windfall for each club). Swansea City deserves recognition for their sublime home form and the tactics employed while playing in Wales. Brendan Rodgers steered them to an unbelievable eleventh place finish. With each newly promoted team retaining Premier League status, that meant that three Premier League clubs had to be relegated. Wolves had an utterly dreadful season and finished bottom of the table – worst on goal difference to boot. Blackburn Rovers finished just above Wolves even if they had pulled out that shock 3-2 upset of Manchester United earlier in the season. Bolton Wanderers rounded out the relegated teams but were only one point below QPR and two below Aston Villa.

The teams to replace Wolves, Blackburn, and Bolton will be Reading, Southampton, and West Ham United. The next season looks to be an interesting one with Manchester City and Chelsea playing against each other in the Community Shield to begin the festivities! What will the new season hold for each team? The only certainty is that weird things do happen once in a blue moon…

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